Becoming singing

In this video John talks about Dogen’s Shobogenzo Dotoku. With this he was recasting Buddhist practice by changing what we think our idea of practice is. Rather than struggling through a storm to an imagined tranquillity, we are to see ourselves and all beings as ‘expression’.

But Dogen’s idea of ‘expression’ is not to view it as an attribute of the self. If we ungrasp from the grip of the self, even what we understand to be delusion, is in itself expression.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 343 given on 16th January 2021


In this video John talks about vitality – the aliveness of the body – and its central role in meditation. If we ignore it then we may end up just thinking of meditation in terms of consciousness, what we will give attention to is the ‘contents’ of consciousness, primarily thoughts and emotions.Aliveness shows itself at the level of sensation, which goes ‘upwards’, becoming emotions, becoming thoughts. It will also show itself as an energetic patterning underneath our emotions.  If we’re not aware of that, then what we’ll see is simply the top layers.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 343 given on 7th April 2021

The Mahayana Sutras

In this video John looks at the fantastical content and structure of many of the Mahayana sutras. What’s going on? In the Pali sutras, the language is simply faithfully recording what the Buddha said.
In the Mahayana sutras by contrast, the language is expressive and performative, so the teaching isn’t, as it were, set out in the sutra. The sutra is like a teacher who will change you.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 333 given on 4th February 2021

The Magician

In this video John talks about Nagarjuna’s metaphor of a magician who conjures up an imaginary person. We can look at this in a personal way: that we have created this phantom of self, this imaginary person from our beauty and pain. A Bodhisattva sees the creator as well as the conjured person.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 342 given on 30th March 2021


In this video John talks about the phrase Shikantaza used to describe Soto Zen zazen. In English this can be translated as, ‘just sitting’. But it’s not a direction to us as an individual describing a psychological state. It’s a description of the non-separation of self & world when we are sitting.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 341 given on 29th March 2021

The Fabric of Buddhism

In this video John talks about some of the symbolism associated with the meaning of the word sutra. Its literal meaning is thread. But if the thread of the sutra is, as it were, one line of the fabric to be weaved, the vertical say, what is the horizontal line? What or who is woven with it to constantly produce the miraculous fabric of Buddhism?

Video adapted from Kusen No. 336 given on 28th February 2021

Being Held

In this video John talks about the Dharmakaya, the universal body of the Buddha. When we are practising, we are held by this Body of the Buddha. However, being still is not the absence of movement. In this moment of practice, we fall backwards into the depth of the self, and fall forwards into the depth of the world.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 335 given on 20th February 2021

Skilful Means

In this video John considers the Heart sutra. It emphasises: intuitive wisdom, compassion and skillful means. But these are not qualities of us as an individual. Seeing the emptiness of all things dismantles the wall of identity. And then what is there but fellow feeling? And so the means we use comes from us as as one facet of this infinitely faceted diamond of all beings.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 334 given on 6th February 2021


In this video John describes the Mahayana view of non-duality. It is not primarily a mind-body split. Rather, the split between self and world, interior and exterior. And if we see this we can avoid thinking of insight in terms of me acquiring insight. All the things of the world, all the people of the world, in this perspective, are our teachers, are bodhisattvas.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 340 given on 24th March 2021

The Five Eyes of Practice

In this video John talks about what the Diamond Sutra describes as the five eyes, or five ways of seeing. These are the physical, heavenly, prajna, dharma & Buddha eyes. These can be thought of as facets of practice. And the Buddha eye, this non-dual awareness, this non-separation contains the other four.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 339 given on 13th March 2021